Featured Post

Perfect Imperfection

Tonight we put up our Christmas tree, the first Ravella/Gilbert tree. Actually we have two trees. One is artificial. It is perfect. It has p...

Friday, November 14, 2008

What's in Your Thankful Jar?

Jim reading to the boys

I took this picture because I wanted to keep this memory fresh in my mind. Jim reads to the boys most every night before bed. It is the same series of books that he read to Nic and Anthony. He saved them never knowing he would have two more sons someday to read them to.

It has been strange starting over here in San Antonio with not many folks knowing my story. I find myself almost not knowing where to start when I meet someone new. I saw a CD entitled "Trying to Fit the Ocean in a Teacup"; that about sums it up perfectly! Though it is extremely important to me, I haven't had much time to give to developing new friendships. However, last week, I was spending a little time with a new friend from church. I had previously told her a brief version of my life with Troy, losing him and my new life with Jim, as well as his life with Andrea. She began reading our blog, which does help cover alot of our history but still is only a window into who we are. She said someone had told her about my interview with Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor and she wanted to know more about it. I still feel so honored that he gave me an opportunity to speak out about the American media's neglectful and negative reports on the war and warriors in Iraq. I smiled inside, today, as I drank coffee from my "No Spin Zone" mug. (More about that mug later).

Telling a new person about God's faithfulness jump started this holiday season for me. I realized not too long ago that the 2 year anniversary of Troy's death would fall exactly on Thanksgiving Day, November 27th, this year. We will share the day with Troy's family, which I thought was so appropriate for the very inappropriate coincidence of sadness and celebration that day. Yet when I look deeper, past the obvious pain, I see the Lord revealing His will for me, actually for all of us; to always give thanks, no matter what.

Jim had a nice idea, which was echoed by my MOPS group last week, to keep a thankful jar in your house. It contains slips of blank paper and pens for each family member to jot down something God did for them that day or week. And in reading them at a later date or when facing difficulties, one can remember God's faithfulness, answered prayers and blessings. How quickly we all forget! I also heard a neat idea to take a Sharpie pen and write on artificial fall leaves all the things you have to be thankful for and spread them out on the table before serving Thanksgiving dinner. Decorative AND Praiseworthy! I liked that idea. As we explained what our thankful jar's purpose was to the kids last week, we discussed the importance of being thankful to the Lord. We OWE it to a loving God, even when He doesn't appear to be loving. He has given us eternal life and this is the least we can do.

Hebrews 12:28

"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably, with reverance and awe."

We know too well that this world can be shaken. Our lives can be turned upside down in the blink of an eye. One knock on the door, one doctor's report, one phone call, one wrong move on the freeway... can change the entire course of the rest of your life.

The last time I rode a rollercoaster, I thought my teeth were going to be rattled out of my head. Every muscle in my body was tense as I gripped the handle rail through the rough twists, turns and flips. I got off the ride and wondered at what point I had gotten too old to ride rollercoasters. I didn't remember them knocking me around or shaking me up so badly when I was young. Maybe I was just too naive to know what could have gone wrong.

Once tragedy strikes your home or your heart, all naivetity is gone. You know you can be shaken so you had better hang on tight. Thankfully the Lord hangs onto us so even when our grip weakens we don't fall out of our seats.

Each day after Troy died, no matter how mad at God I was, I tried to always tell him something I was thankful for. I won't reiterate here what I wrote in my last blog, "Cocoons", but suffice to say I was always thankful for the people God put in my life throught it all. I remember on Day 5 when it was confirmed that it was Troy's DNA at the crash site and his status went from "Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown" (MIA) to "Killed in Action" I thanked the Lord. I did not thank him that Troy had died. I did not thank Him that evil and twisted terrorists had stolen his earthly body from the crash site. But I thanked Him, profusely, that I did not have wonder if he had been taken alive or was being held prisoner somewhere in that forsaken country. Insurance was able to release the money to us. We had closure. We had devastating closure but we had closure that some never get.

I dissected this below scripture in Thessalonians about thankfulness because I needed to understand what God was asking me to do, in my nightmare, with regards to thankfulness. Was He asking me to be thankful that He had taken Troy? Well, I simply couldn't do that. But was I disobeying God by not thanking Him?

I Thessalonians 5:16-18

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

I looked this verse up in many different translations and not one of them said I had to be thankful FOR all circumstances, just to be thankful IN all circumstances. As Jim and I were talking to the kids about our thankful jar, we talked about this scripture and encouraged them to do this so they would not grow bitter but better by life's disappointments. And so they would always attribute God as the One giving them goodness and not attribute it to themselves.

Hebrews 1:16-17
"Do not be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and poerfect gift is from above, coming down fromt he Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

Philippians 1:6

"...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

These scriptures tell us that every good thing comes from our Father AND that He is doing good in us and for us from our birth to our death. Circumstances are misleading. Good to God is not necessarily good to us and vice versa. But if we hold onto, even when we are shaken, His truth that He is working out the good, even in the bad, then we can work through the pain and have hope. Did I do this every second of the day? No. One night when I was really questioning God's goodness to me, plans for me and was struggling to find anything to be thankful for, I received this forward of a forward email. (Thank you Terri and Jennifer!) It spoke loudly yet gently to me in my distress. It was written by a total stranger struggling in his own trials:

"I won't, by the strength of God, give up on all I believe, nor get mad because I don't understand why. God is still God no matter how these events transpire. Circumstances do not define my faith or my God. God is unchanging. His is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Being a Christian does not mean we are given a guarantee of a trial free life or pain free life. In contrast it means we will face trials and pain. Our guarantee is He will never leave us nor forsake us. We do not face trials alone. And through our faith we glorify our Creator and our Savior who gave us another guarantee; that we will live for eternity with Him. So as we get ever closer to the edge of this furnace and as we begin to feel the heat from the fire, we know the flames do not control our destiny. And we rest under the shadow of the Almighty."

That stranger was Jim. That email was written in January 2007, when Andrea was barely hanging onto life in the ICU the first time she went in. Though their trial was entirely different than mine, I knew this couple were still being thankful and faithful to the God we all served.

Jim and I told our children that thankfulness to God will be the biggest testimony we have as a family. I hope it has already begun.

Back to the beginning of this blog when I was telling my new friend about my time on the O'Reilly Factor, I loved telling her the rest of the story. About how, when they asked me to be on the show, I had boldly asked the producer if there was anyway I could get a book or coffee mug from the show. He said yes and I was so touched when not very many weeks after I received not only a mug and an autographed book but an entire boxful of O'Reilly paraphanalia! How great of them to remember me. My friend was touched to hear the rest of the story that she didn't watch on TV. I then told her about that the night after I was on the show, someone emailed Bill O'Reilly and told him there had been a fund established for my children. He showed the email on TV and posted the fund info on The O'Reilly Factor website. I never knew what became of it but felt awfully thankful that people watched and were touched that I spoke out against the anti-war media movement though I had lost so much in the war itself. When I was moving from Phoenix, I stopped by the bank to close out the activity and was surprised to see that the account for the kids had grown by thousands specifically from that 10 minutes I was on the show. Isn't that what God does? We ask for a coffee mug and He gives us a bank account.

I cleaned out yet another straggling box the other day and it was full of cards from strangers, sticky notes and scraps of paper with phone numbers of people helping or praying and pages of scriptures that folks jotted down for encouragement. All of this and so much more gave me reasons to be thankful each and every single day when I couldn't see the sun shining.

Which brings me back to the photo of Jim and the boys reading. Troy loved his kids. He was a great father. He patiently instucted loving wisdom to our children. He loved spending time with them over anything else. And I often said I never would have considered having so many children if it hadn't been that I knew I had the guarantee of him being such a super dad. Turned out that guarantee I had just didn't last a lifetime. Losing not just a father, but the kind of father he was, made his loss that much more crushing for all of us. I knew God could return this blessing again but to be honest, I doubted I would get that twice in a lifetime. I prayed for it and I found God gave it back to me in Jim. I learned I can entrust not only myself, but my children to God's hands and God's plans. He does it all so much better than I could have. He made Jim the kind of father that the children need. He views his second chance at fatherhood, not as duty but as blessing. He loves reading to the boys as much as they love listening to him. Could I look at them and see them as boys who lost everything- their father, their best friend, their mentor, their role model? Sure. Should I instead rejoice with thankfulness and a bit of awe that the Lord gave my sons many incredible male role models through family and friends over the last two years? And that though they have been through unimaginable trauma at early ages, they are whole, healthy, loving and kind young men? Yes. Do I see the miracle that Jim CHOSE to be their father when he had no genetic obligation? Most assuredly yes. For all those things and more I choose thankfulness.

As I mentioned above that I was forwarded Jim's helpful email that night by Jim's friend, Terri, to my friend, Jennifer, and then on to me, I didn't mention that I got to finally meet Terri today! She was an instrument God used not just in my meeting Jim, but in teaching a grieving widow that her God is universally still holding us in the palm of His hand from other runners in an unexpectedly painful race, Jim and Andrea. Terri and her husband are in town from Wichita Falls for the weekend and stopped by so we could meet. Out of the blue, she mentioned the subject of thankfulness. Jim and I had heard about a military family in Wichita Falls losing their one-year old little girl when she crawled through the doggie door and drowned in their own swimming pool. Terri spoke to the little girl's 10 year old big sister at church only the day after the funeral. Terri reads the Bible stories to the elementary kids and helps them with the application. That Sunday's lesson was on the ten lepers being healed yet only one thanked God. The little girl told her that she had something to be thankful for. Terri, like all of us, could not imagine what it could be after such an awful event. The girl said her little sister loved being held and now she was being held all the time by Jesus. And for that she was thankful. I couldn't help but think that she must have heard that from her parents. They are teaching her the very important lesson of gratefulness even when we hurt. That is the best story I have heard of being thankful IN all things.

Thirty people accepted Christ as their personal Savior during Troy's memorial service. I wanted to be sitting in anyone else's seat, other than my own, that sunny morning in early December during his service. Yet, I was thankful that so many would now spend eternity with the Lord. Indeed, it is a new way of looking at life. It's easy to be thankful when all is well in our world. Much more of a challenge when the bottom falls out.

I refer to David, who was called a man after God's own heart, often because he was always seeking relationship with the Lord even when He didn't understand Him. David was just a gut-level-honest-with-God kinda guy. David had many victories and many defeats. He was the king yet, at times, he was as low as a man could be. David was often pursued by his enemies. He didn't always feel God's favor or presence. I really like what he wrote in Psalm 71. Here are some excerpts:

Psalm 71:5
"For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you."
verse 10-11
"For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together. They say, 'God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him'. "
verse 14
"But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more."
verse 20
"Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up."

Casting Crowns sings a beautiful song titled "Who Am I?". It speaks of our humbleness compared to God's greatness.
"I am a flower quickly fading, Here today and gone tomorrow, A wave tossed in the ocean, A vapor in the wind. Still you hear me when I'm calling, Lord, you catch me when I'm falling, And you've told me who I am. I am yours. Not because of who I am, But because of what you've done. Not because of what I've done, But because of who you are."

What an awesome song that reminds me that the Lord of the Universe knows my name and listens when I call. That is always something to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blessings and Family

I (Jim) started this blog last week while sitting and relaxing on Veterans Day and I'm finishing it the following week while I watch Boston play soccer. Okay it is a little cold and I forgot a jacket so I'm watching from the car, but I'm in the front row with a good view of the field.

Ginger and I have made it to the fall and every day we fall more in love and grow closer as a family. It was a crazy summer and looking back I wonder if we realized all we had done? We spent 5 months traveling back and forth between Phoenix and San Antonio, followed by the wedding in May, the drive to San Antonio, buying our home. I moved off base and Ginger moved from Phoenix. We unpacked and set up the house in 3 weeks (no small feat) then sent Boston and Greyson to camp. I took Nic and Anthony to Alaska. We planned and set up a second wedding in San Antonio, went on a honeymoon (this was the easiest part), started the kids in a new school, searched for a church home, oh and did I mention we had construction at the house from May till September? Amidst all this. life continues to become "ours" and God has done some amazing miracles right before our eyes. Some of them have come in the form of what is missing as much as what we have been given.

As Ginger and I laid in each other’s arms watching the movie, "Dan in,Real Life", about a man who lost his wife and meets someone else and remarries. (Not the comedy I thought it was going to be, but Ginger had warned me when we were dating to not watch it alone...good advice.) But it made me think of all I have been spared of. All the struggles of being a single Dad in the Air Force. Who would have been there to help with Anthony when I travelled? The nights of utter loneliness? The hopelessness? The thought of trying to "Find" someone else. Dating!! I had only dated once and that was Andrea 27 years ago. It would have been daunting and overwhelming and my life would be void of joy as I lived an isolated life in San Antonio. As I sat there seeing God's hand in my life by what did not happen I could not help but look at Ginger and see God's provision in what I did have. I held Ginger, ran my finger though her hair and she looked up at me with the loving eyes and smiled. I was home, I was complete and I realized I am a blessed man. It made me realize God had blessed me in many ways I had not usually thought about. It was only when I thought of the things that had not happened or I did not face that I began to see God's hand in the things I had been spared from.

As I continue to reflect on the events of the past year I see the obvious tragedies and the obvious blessings in our lives. But when I look a little deeper I see the absence of events as blessings too. We have become a family in a way that could only be the result of God's hand and the answer to countless prayers prayed for all of us. Prayers that may have been prayed over the last 2-4 years but are being answered now. It is as if we are reaping what so many have sowed. Thank you all who have prayed for this family. I love being the father of a big family. Don't get me wrong it is hard work and 6 kids keeps you busy, but there are times like last night that make it all worth it. Ginger and I were in out room with the twins watching "The Wizard of Oz." Ginger with Aspen in her lap and Annalise lying on the sofa with me resting her head on my arm. There was a peace in our home and I don't just mean quietness, but a spiritual peace.

It hit me as I held Annalise in my arms and felt her comforted in me. We were a family. I was telling a good friend earlier this week how humbling it is to hear the girls holler "Daddy" when I walk in the door. There is not a day or a time I hear that that I don't think of Troy; those were supposed to be his words. It was to be his joy in hearing those girls and seeing them run to him. I think of it when I look into Ginger's eyes and feel the depth of love I thought I would never experience again in my life. But all this keeps me humble knowing I am standing in for not just another man, but a great dad, father and husband. But God's plan did not stop there. Our family is far more than the 9 of us. His plan included a bigger concept of family.

Today as I drove Boston to his soccer game at 7:15 am! We talked about Troy and Andrea and the amazing people they were. But then we talked about the miracle that Troy's and Andrea's families are both from Wichita Falls. That also combined with Ginger's parents and Andrea and I all moving to Texas in the same year. What are the odds we would all be so close at that exact time? I believe the odds were 100% because it was God's plan. Because of these seemingly small events, our families are even more intertwined. It allows us to drive home for Thanksgiving and be with Troy's family on the two year anniversary of his death, (which happens to be Thanksgiving Day.) It allows Ginger's Mom and Dad to visit every month to help us with the kids. But most of all it allows grandparents to continue to be an integral part of the kids life. It allows for us all to be an even bigger family. God took what appeared to be the shattering of families and put the pieces together in an even more beautiful mosaic then any of us could have ever have imagined. Isn't it God's way to reveal Himself in what man sees as disaster? Like I told Boston today, God did not leave us even when it seemed He had. He can't leave us. It is not His nature or His character and He cannot change. He seeks us always and His words are true; He will never leave us or forsake us.

I have no idea what any of you are struggling with today, but I know we all have issues we struggle with. My lesson from this past week is first don't forget to stop and see what God is protecting us from. Sometimes it is hard to see or understand what God does for us in the events that never happen, but they can be blessings just as much as anything you receive. Then maybe, like it did for me, it will allow you to reflect on the many things God has given you. And don't forget to look in the smallest of places, like a little girl resting in your arms, a loving look from your wife, or just that moment of peace in your house in an otherwise chaotic day.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Here is a micro science fact for you: in the insect world eggs hatch then become larvae, then pupae, then adults. Funny to calls insects adults but that's what they are after they go through their developing stages. Many insects spin themselves into cocoons to protect them during their maturation process. (My friends are freaking out at this point and wondering what's with all this science talk and where has their friend who has coordinating earrings for every outfit gone?!) No fear. That is pretty much all I know.... Oh and it's me, Ginger, writing this one. I guess the earring comment gave that one away. Anyway, we are all most familiar though with the ugly caterpillar who, after spending time in its' cocoon, emerges as a beautiful butterfly. I think most girls hang onto this natural phenomenon in their awkward teenage years. Hoping, they too, will emerge a lovely creature after all the developing is over. That wasn't just me, right?!
In anything you read about the compostion of cocoons, they are referred to as being made of silk or silken threads. Those little guys spin the thread from their own bodies and I even read that the Monarch butterfly eats milkweed (I am not exactly sure what that is - okay this non-science girl only will go so far in her research) and the silk it spins is green and gold! I love how God doesn't make everything ordinary, don't you? The little caterpillars will first attach themselves to a branch, twig, leaf, stone or even a windowsill and then get busy spinning. Some other insects dangling by a thread to its branch but not butterflies. They want a stable environment for their protection and growth.

I can't help but see the obvious comparison to what God does for us. When we are in our most vulnerable stages of life, He often wraps us in our own cocoons. Cocoons made from precious silk The Maker spins from His own hand. Phoenix was our cocoon. It was so obvious to me the second I stepped back into my old life there just a couple of weeks ago. After Troy died and people asked me where would be moving, my answer was always that God had made us a nest for us there and I wasn't going to leave it until He told me to. I loved that nest analogy because it reminded me of the Lord God Himself being the mother bird and we, the kids and I, as His babies were being housed, protected and fed there. This is one of my very favorite scriptures in all of the Word of God:

Psalm 91:4
"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."

Rampart means fortification. I think of the high-walled cities up on the top of those hills in the Italian countryside. God's faithfulness and steadfastness (as opposed to our flakiness) is our fortification; protection when the storms come and the enemy presses in.
Actually, that nest in Phoenix was in existence even well before Troy deployed. I remember he and I used to marvel at the amazing sense of community we felt there that we had never felt before at any assignment. Our group of friends there were not only the kind to lend you a cup of sugar but they would go to the store and buy you sugar so you would be sure and have it for next time. They would happily take a crying baby from your tired arms and not just hold for awhile but take it home with them so you could really have so peace and rest. Troy and I were bracing ourselves for what would have been our move to Kansas in the summer of '07 because we knew how hard it would be to find that again.

I think we were mistaken on that point, though, because we weren't the ones to have "found" it in the first place. God made the nest and He knew I would need it when the sky fell on that November 27th morning. Like that baby bird trying out its new wings on the branch above, when the world turned upside down, that baby bird just plopped right back down into its' nest. Many marveled at my nest in the days after Troy's death. I am not that great of person to have warranted so much love and support. It could have only been given by the hand of God.

But what was once our nest as a family there quickly evolved into a more tight-knit intimate protective covering, a cocoon, for the kids and I. I knew it was happening because I felt safe during the most insecure and uncertain time of my life. Everyday (and I mean EVERYDAY) there was someone at my house either helping us or loving on us in some way. There was not a need the kids and I had that went unmet.

A few months after Troy died, the kids and I left our house full of so many bittersweet memories, and moved a few miles down the road into a bigger house. I only got one last move with the military and did not want to use it to move that short distance away. Friends from church and the base came by everyday all day to help pack. Actually, come to think of it, they did most all of the packing because I was either busy falling apart, still trying to take care of the massive amounts of paperwork associated with and KIA death overseas and digging my way outof the months of neglecting bills, homework and to-do lists. But packing was just a part of it. On moving day I was a mess. I knew my pilot friends were coordinating the move but honestly I just wanted to stay in bed and pray that I would wake up from the nightmare so I wouldn't have to deal with what "moving on" meant or what was actually happening. Every military wife knows what goes into PCS'ing (permanent change of station - which is an oxymoron because in the military NOTHING is permanent) a large family. I did not know how to PCS on my own. Troy had always taken care of everything. And now I didn't even know whether we would be living in this different house for 3 months or 3 years. My head spun. I woke up on that Saturday morning to see TWO U-Hauls, SIX flatbed trailers and FIFTY fighter pilots loading and moving all my crap. Can I say that on a Christian blogsite?! Well, my close friends know I have alot of crap! Some of it is really nice but when you are schlepping it up and down two flights of stairs or trying to find some place to put it that is the best noun for it. I found pilots and their wives and my friends unpacking dishes, setting up kitchens and bathrooms, making beds ready for seven people to sleep in. My friend, Sally, made lunch for everyone. It was more than I could take when I saw all of those guys giving up their Saturday for a woman many of them didn't personally know. I was humbled by the brotherhood these guys showed to Troy.
Though I was rendered almost immobilized at times with grief, after the move I fell back on the thing that came naturally and was a little thearaputic: decorating my house. Gary, Lin, Greg and many other men would show up with a hammer and let me abuse them for hours hanging window treatments, artwork and building Pottery Barn kids furniture with poor directions and not enough screws! They all will never know how this ministered to my bleeding heart and wounded soul. I needed to be in control of what my environment looked like (even more than usual!) because it was the only thing I could control at the time.

The list of people and the tasks they performed for me, like Carey setting up "Team Ginger" (girls who would rotate in shifts of two during the week to help out) or the meals that poured in for 5 straight months. Sniper (he sounds scary but he's a big teddy bear), Robb and Coop taking care of everything from my sprinkler system to my finances and everything in between. The squadron that bought and wrapped all our Christmas presents so the kids would have something normal that first Christmas. Girlfriends that came over to hold crying babies or hold a crying widow at the expense of time with their own families. Aunt Faye, who no matter how her cancer or MS were affecting her that day showed up with a smile, a hug and a heart to do our laundry. The Engram Family adopted us and took us in as their own. Some of the memories I will hold closely to my heart were our every-Sunday-after-church roast and potatoes lunch at Pastor Don and Sharon's or the too-many-to-count dinners at Pastor Steve and Tami's. I often sat at their big dining tables crushed in spirit and unable to eat much but those hours spent with that family were like oxygen breathed into my tired lungs. Becky and Jess, two godly and amazing young women that chose to work for me as nannies yet made it so much more than a mere job. They invested in us and poured their lives into my five children. My thankful list would exceed the number of words this blog would hold. When I gave my testimony there at the church a couple of weeks ago, I asked everyone who had ever helped us during the last two years, whether it was a meal made or the great act of prayer on our behalf, to stand up. I am not kidding, 95% of that congregation stood up. And I think that remaining 5% must have been first-time visitors that Sunday. When I asked Boston what he thought of the tribute to his dad he commented on all the people that stood up. I hope my kids will carry that mental picture with them and if seeds of bitterness ever try to take root in their lives they will stop and remember to be thankful for those people God sent to help us. I won't even begin to mention my parents and Amy and all my other friends and family that flew in to be there for us. The hands and feet of God. Literally the Body of Christ at work. Each time something was done for us or given to us was another silken thread the Master Weaver used.

I will be honest with you. (Do I do anything but that?! ha). It had to be the Lord obviously putting Jim in my life and me knowing that was His will for us that could have made me leave my cocoon there. Though my life is exactly where it is supposed to be and we have a wholeness again with another great husband and father, Jim, it hasn't been easy living outside of the cocoon. Being back in Phoenix and with those people felt comfortable and safe. It was effortless to slip back into our old life there. The kids are so at home there and miss their friends so much. Our church home was a place we could honestly call a home. We were taught and fed and loved and grew there. I can't help but question why can't we have our miraculous life with Jim AND that blanket of external security?

But when I look at through the perspective of an actual cocoon's purpose it makes a little more sense. That time there was my time of covering and healing and growing stronger again. When Jim is at work or gone I hear the silence (okay not literal silence I do have six children!) of a home empty of close-knit friendships and the buzz of friends coming and going day and night. I am a people person and this has been a stretch for me to be so much more withdrawn from people than I ever have. Jim and I are still building the foundation of our new family and that doesn't allow for alot of extra time to make friends or entertain. I do understand this season is for that. Besides the couple of friends we already knew here we are beginning to connect. I know it does take time. And as my other widow friend, Carole, said after she got remarried and moved, "Now, Ginger, we have to go back to making friends slowly." Tragedy definitely sends friendships into hyper-growth mode. We are always so frightened for whatever horrible thing might happen but I can tell you that when it did, for us, we watched the depth of our relationships plunge even deeper to a place I didn't know existed. As I reflect back on my time in Phoenix and among that sea of loved ones, I couldn't help but think that must be a smidgen what heaven's community of Believers must be like.
Now the Lord wants me to go back to solely leaning on Him and serving my new husband and children. I had my time in the cocoon and now I am spreading my wings and allowing the Holy Spirit to carry me in the direction I should be flying. Leaving the nest so to speak.

I feel certain the Lord's main agenda for me doesn't include me always being comfortable. He does call me to be content. There is a difference. We look at Paul's words here:

Philippians 4:12
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

He wants us to grow into adults and leave the cocoon. And though He gives us the physical help for a period of time, where we gain on strength for the journey and the stamina for the race can only come from Christ.
Jim and I and another couple just started the Bible Study, Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Just today we looked at a chapter entitled "Returning to our First Love". This study's emphasis is on Christians returning whole-heartedly to God in a revival. Not the kind in the tent but the kind in the soul. This passage struck a cord with me: "God wants us to love Him first and foremost. When we find ourselves trusting in people instead of the Lord, this indicates our hearts focus has shifted from Him. Love for people- friends, family members or even ourselves- can compete with our love for Him."
Jeremiah 17:5
"Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord."
Easy to read. Easy to say. Hard to do. Man will disappoint us. Man will desert us. Man will die on us. Man will not deliver us from the pit. Only God will.
Psalm 40:2
"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand."
That's what my shaky legs needed. A firm place to stand. That place was literally in the deserts of Arizona and in the people He chose that accepted the call to help us in our time of great need. But really, if I dig a little deeper, I see that Christ was the real solid ground I stood on. If it wasn't for Him, there wouldn't have been a them. God Bless you all my Phoenix family!


I (Ginger) have been thinking on this blog for weeks now. There are so many places I want to go with it that I fear I may take you on a long ride of rabbit trails but I will try to stay focused and record my thoughts in an organized manner. If you were in my head right now you would be dizzy!

Lately I have become obsessed with tear production. Rather the lack of. Seems a huge side effect of PRK and Lasik surgery are dry eyes during the healing period. I have never experienced anything like it. Totally miserable during the first weeks of recovery and now, into my fifth week, it is less of a problem but definitely an issue. It is explained that during surgery the corneal nerves that regulate tear production are "disrupted". I have found that most scientific descriptions of post PRK surgeries sugar-coat the horrors that surround it. This "disruption" in tear production has given me not one night's good sleep in over a month, the constant feeling like I have been standing in front of a wind tunnel with my eyes propped open with toothpicks and all-around general misery. They say that in 6 months all signs of dry eye should disappear. You don't know how much I pray they are right. In the meantime, I am doing everything I can to help the situation. The doctor even plugged up a set of my drainage tear ducts (with some tweezers and a teensy wad of stuff that looked like blue silly putty!) to try to help my eyes hang onto their dimished tear supply. I also supplement my lack of natural tears with artificial ones. Did you know there are 28 different kinds of artificial tears on the market?! This is one area of the beauty aisle I didn't even know existed. Yet now, I am a frequent customer, in search of the one that more perfectly mimics my own. I haven't found one. Seems only God can do that. Naturally, our tears contain three different types that constantly all need to be produced and working in harmony. I am now thoroughly conviced that this is a very important bodily function we should never take for granted.

Jim and I had both read, in different places, that studies had been done on the varied chemical compositions of tears and that ones shed from grief have a different composition than those shed from physical pain or joy. Biochemically, tears of grief release toxins that have built up during emotional stress and release physiological, psychological and spiritual healing. It said it perfectly in one article I read; tears are God's gift to humanity to process the hurt of a painful world. So true, I agree.

When I heard the news of Troy's plane crash it was like a faucet in my eyes was turned on. It didn't shut off for months. I remember thinking one day, about 5 months afterwards, that I finally went through one whole day without crying. It scared me a little because I was so used to it. And though often I would cry so hard I felt like I would throw-up, I usually felt much better when I was finished.

Lamentations 5:17

"Our hearts are sick and weary and our eyes grow dim with tears."

I would cry so hard and for so long that first week that I recall my actual vision being blurry. At first I though it must be caused by my make-up but then I noticed it happened when I had none on. I think this is the dimness spoken of here. Lamentations literally means crying out to God. He created us and penned our stories and therefore must have known it wouldn't be long before we were crying out to Him. Thankfully, He gave me alot of shoulders here on earth to cry on, too. I cried in front of friends and strangers alike. I often made other people cry and there we would be, joined in the harmonious falling of tears. I know people who don't cry easily (Tami :)) and I don't think there is anything wrong with it unless someone feels too embarrassed, ashamed or proud to cry. I let my children see me cry. Not necessarily during the uncontrollable times, as I didn't want to scare them, but I definitely did not want to hide those healthy grief reactions from them. Boston fought the tear flow and still does. I almsot rejoiced on the rare occasions he would cry because I knew he needed to. I think he felt weak, maybe like he wasn't being the man of the house. Or maybe he knew if he cried then I would too. And a boy only wants to see his mama cry so much, you know? My friends and I often found piles of tissues in his bed so I rested in the fact that he might be crying himself to sleep. Seems strange to say I rested in that fact but I knew I felt better afterwards and I hoped for the same relief for him. I would start crying and for awhile there Bella would ask me, "mommy, why are you crying?" and my response was usually that I missed Daddy. Now everytime I cry she asks if I am missing Daddy in heaven? I actually hope my children remember their mother crying from a broken heart over losing their father. I hope they correlate the amount of tears to how much I love and miss him. There were many many nights when I, too, found myself sleeping with a pile of tissues.

Psalm 6:6

"I am worn out from sobbing all night, I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears."

David wrote this during his darker days. I can't even imagine how many more broken people between David's time and mine have done the same. One scripture that always comforted me, even when nothing comforted me, was this one:

Psalm 56:8
"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book."

I believe we wholeheartedly take the Bible as literal and I KNOW Jesus will show me that bottle of mine someday. I think His hands will lovingly open a beautiful journal with all the dates and times and reasons behind each tear I wept. I just believe that is the kind of God He is. He takes our grief and makes it valid and valuable. I believe Jesus, in His tender mercies, wept with me at times. I don't think He would have told us to mourn with those who mourn if He wasn't going to do it Himself.

Romans 12:15
"Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn."

Music is always a surefire way to make me cry. In the last month Jim and I have been to both Third Day and Mercy Me concerts. If you have listened to any music on our playlist you will see that both groups seemed to minister to us in our grief and sorrow. Third Day's "Cry out to Jesus" is one we have mentioned before. Jim and I have openly cried on one another's shoulders since the day we met. There has been a special kind of healing that has taken place when we have been able to comfort the other or at least do what the Lord told us to do in the above Romans scripture. Simply mourn with someone who is mourning. Is it easy to do this when the one you are holding is crying over the one they powerfully loved long before you arrived in the picture? Absolutely not. But it is necessary for Jim and I to know that we don't have to always cry in solitude. Of course, we do that too.
I know men fear crying more than women. I have seen both my husbands cry and though I know they didn't necessarily like it, I am glad they were able to. I think the first time I saw my dad cry, at all, was when he and Mom put me on a plane to Lakenheath, England to join Troy for our first assignment. I am not sure I saw him cry again for the next eleven years. Then Troy died and I saw my dad weep. He teared up almost as often as my Mom did at times. He will never know how much that meant to me to see him be broken like that and hurt for me like that. In truth, I knew he hurt for himself badly, as well. My dad adored Troy and lost not only a son-in-law but a dear friend. I am thankful that I now see my dad be more emotional than I did growing up. Men will be their strongest in Christ when they surrender their pride and allow weakness to creep in a bit.

II Corinthians 12: 9-10

"But He (God) said to me (Paul), 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.'"

Kind of nontraditional for a wedding invite, we know, (we have a nontraditional marriage afterall) but we put this scripture below on our inviation:

Psalm 126:5
"For those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!"

We sowed plenty of tears and were more than happy to reap some joy. The Lord did that for us. Planted a garden full of sadness, watered it with our tears and gave us a harvest of hope in Him, peace and purpose in our lives and the blessing of finding another spouse's arms to rest our weary souls.

Jim and I still cry over Troy and Andrea. And I know over the next couple of months as we both face our anniversaries of loss, we will, perhaps, cry even more. But I want to cling to these two scriptures so I won't cry without hope:

Isaiah 25:8
"He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears."

Revelation 21:9
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Praise God it is not people passing away but death and pain passing away. We can ultimately rest in this truth and live, though grieving, with victory over the grave. I remember Pastor Steve telling me he felt like he had become more serious after his first wife, Pam's, death. Sadness will do this to a person. I see it in myself. Not the kind of devasting depression and dark pit that caused me to feel hopeless, but a thread of sadness or somberness that is continually woven into the fabric of my life. It often rears its head unexpectedly. Like tonight, for instance, as Texas Tech GLORIOUSLY defeated the University of Texas in an incredible football game tonight (I don't even like football and I was yelling at the television!), I felt that familiar "unkind companion", as Marlo refers to it, creep in. Troy and I went to school at Tech, went to football games and have many sweet memories of dating there. I recalled how in the January '07 bowl game each Tech player wore Troy's name on the back of their helmets. That is the kind of university it is. Those are the kind of memories I live with. Yet I live with them with the knowledge that this life is but a vapor. Our lives are a whisper in the wind in comparison to eternity. The pain will pass. Hopefully most of it in this lifetime but certainly He promised it will in the next.

And, yes, I cried while I wrote this blog.